By Sandy Zimmerman
(Photos by Sandy Zimmerman)
Walking into the eerie atmosphere inside the Klein Matterhorn’s Glacier Palace was startling as we stood 49 feet below the surface of the glacier. A rubber floor mat protected visitors from the icy floor while the handrail made the trek easier. Frozen, solid walls of ice surrounded us as we followed the dimly lit colored neon lights along the long tunnel of ice.
The ice tunnel twisted and turned and finally, the first ice exhibit appeared. It was several large wooden barrels filled with wine, cooled in this natural freezer-temperature until Fridays when they serve chilled wine in the ice grotto.
One after another amazing ice sculptures were created in awesome scenes and unbelievable designs. Here in the highest glacier palace in the world (12,529 feet) the atmosphere is mystical. We walked up steps of ice and strolled inside some scenes for close-up views of the larger pieces.
At one point we arrived at the openings of three different cave entrances, which way should we go?
Our guide lead us to a bigger- than- life Asian scene with a mega-Buddha sitting on its throne. Later we saw a carved coach, the style of the early days of kings and queens. One of the more elaborate set of ice sculptures portrayed an Arctic scene of Eskimos, igloos, and penguins. Each new scene seemed so beautiful, this is an ancient art of ice carving that most people only see smaller pieces but not of this magnitude.
As we went deeper into the interior of the glacier, I was surprised to see all of the giant crevasses and the gaps in the ice.
Throughout the ice tunnel, visitors can stop and read about the creation of the glacier palace and glaciology. This is similar to a museum as they presented each ice sculpture with special lights and sounds. Of course it was cold inside, but the thrills took our minds off the temperature. After our experience inside the glacier, we had a cup of hot coffee at the Matterhorn Restaurant.
The ice sculptures are perfect in this environment, a way to display them in all of their beauty where they will not melt as the tour continues all year during the winter and summer. We suggest visitors should not miss the Glacier Palace, a once- in- a-lifetime experience! I have walked on a glacier and rode a dog sled across a glacier in Alaska but have never been INSIDE a glacier! Although I had taken tours of what I will call “regular” natural underground caves before, this is a very different excursion.
The electric bus takes passengers from the village of Zermatt to the first station of the Matterhorn cable car and they ride until reaching the large tram. Known as “The highest cableway in Europe”, visitors are transported up to the Glacier Palace. www.zermatt.ch www.matterhornparadise.ch www.myswitzerland.com